Huw Jones raring to go for Glasgow Warriors debut
The 23-year-old, who has scored seven tries in his 11 caps, including one in all three of the recent autumn Tests, completed his contract in South Africa with the Stormers and Western Province before joining up with the Scotland squad.
After a well-earned short break he has swiftly settled into his new club thanks to a host of familiar faces from international duty and is set to launch the new phase of his promising career in the European Champions Cup clash with French Top 14 high-fliers Montpellier.
“It’s great to finally be involved,” said Jones. “People have been considering me a Glasgow player for a while, but until I get my first game I won’t really believe it. It’s great to finally be here training with the guys. I’m very much looking forward to it.”
Jones is fully aware of his debut’s magnitude as Glasgow look to maintain some hope that they can repeat last season’s feat of reaching the last eight of Europe’s elite competition. After two opening losses in Pool 3, which contrasts starkly with their perfect run in the Guinness Pro14, the Warriors know that any more dropped points in the campaign will be fatal.
“Yeah, it’s a very big one. We definitely need to win this to have a chance of getting out of the group, so it’s a vital game, against good opposition in Montpellier,” said the explosive centre.
“They’re right up near the top of the French league, got a good coach, as we know, and they’re a good set of players.”
That coach, of course, is Vern Cotter, pictured, who gave Jones his chance with Scotland on last summer’s tour to Japan.
“He gave me my first international cap. I’ve a bit to thank him for, and I think he’s a great coach,” he said. “But I wasn’t with him for that long – a season and a half. I don’t know him as well as some of the other boys know him, but I’m looking forward to it and I know he’ll be looking forward to it as well.” Jones, who enjoyed a Currie Cup win in his last game for Western Province, scoring twice in the final, is adamant that Glasgow can still salvage their bid to reach the knockout stages.
“No, it’s by no means impossible,” he insisted. “It will be tough, but we’re unbeaten in the league so far, so there’s no reason why we can’t do that again for the rest of our group games.”
Jones operated in a Glasgow-dominated backline throughout the November Test series and, while accepting the feelgood factor from Scotland can energise the Warriors this weekend, paid tribute to the players who have kept things ticking over with big wins over Ospreys and Cardiff. “The guys that didn’t play against New Zealand and Australia – those are the guys that have been performing so well week in, week out in the league,” said Jones.
“I think there’s just a really good collective confidence with this team. Two losses [in Europe] is not ideal. I think this is just another game – we don’t look at it as ‘We’re not performing in Europe’. It’s the same team that we’re putting out. We can’t go into it thinking it will be too tough for us.”
Jones could be up against a number of familiar faces in the form of Montpellier’s southern hemisphere imports.
“Jan Serfontein – I’ve played against him a couple of times. Francois Steyn, Joe Tomane – I’ve played against him when he was with the Brumbies,” explained Jones. “Jesse Mogg, Aaron Cruden. With Super Rugby and with Currie Cup I’ve faced these guys before, but it’s a different game up here so you can’t expect to know what they’re going to do.”
Jones is expecting a seamless transition from the fast-paced game advocated by Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend when he turns out under Warriors coach Dave Rennie for the first time.
“They [Montpellier] have a few big boys and a very big forward pack. I think they’ll be looking to dominate us physically, but if you look at the way both Glasgow and Scotland have been playing, with slightly smaller sides, with the pace of the game that we play, we’ve been able to overcome those bigger sides,” he said.
“I think that will be part of our plan as well – to play at a high tempo and try and get around their bigger guys.”
Now settled into Glasgow’s west end, Jones has been able to reflect on an unforgettable month – the tries, the wins over Samoa and Australia and that epic confrontation with the All Blacks.
“It was really enjoyable,” said Jones. “Two good wins and a good performance [against New Zealand], but we weren’t happy with that – it was there for us to win. But it was a really enjoyable couple of weeks.
“There’s a great vibe in the squad, which makes playing all the more enjoyable. And then to play some good rugby as well just tops it off.”